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Time to Shine: Bringing Championship Wines and Spirits to the City of Angels

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Los Angeles Invitational Wine & Spirits Competition Prepares for Its 3rd Year

 

The 3rd annual Los Angeles Invitational Wine & Spirits Competition will take place February 27-28, 2024. “For such a young competition, we’re already gaining attention for the number and quality of entries,” says Debra Del Fiorentino, president of Wine Competitions Management and Production, which owns and oversees the logistics of the contest. “Year over year, we’re growing in size and recognition — and our winners are reaping the benefits.”

Russian River Vineyards, which took top prize in the 2023 wine category for its 2018 Austin Vineyard Pinot Noir, reported a more than 20% boost in interest from consumers following the announcement of winners last year. 

“Consumers take note of accolades when considering a purchase, and those Best of the Best medals serve as a powerful reinforcement at point of sale,” agrees Kate Jerkens, chief business officer at Nearest Green Distilling, which won top honors in the spirits category. “Receiving Best in Class for both our Uncle nearest Uncut & Unfiltered Straight Rye Whiskey and our Single Barrel Rye Whiskey was an immense honor, especially considering they are both new distillery-exclusive releases that we know will excite those visiting the Nearest Green Distillery.”

International entries

The competition was established in 2022, in conjunction with Los Angeles-based beverage professionals (representing both the on- and off-premise channels), to highlight the best wine and spirits producers in the world, and to introduce those producers to the largest market of consumers in the United States. 

Entries for this international competition are open to all wineries and distilleries regardless of place of origin. Judging categories do not draw a distinction between foreign and domestic products.

“We welcome entries from all over the world,” says Del Fiorentino. “The Southern California audience for special wines and spirits is avid and diverse. We want to bring awareness of up-and-coming brands as well as traditional makers that continue to exceed expectations. This competition provides an opportunity for everyone to showcase their best.”

Finding the best

Judging a competition of this size and stature requires an open mind and a refined palate. With more than 1,000 entries, it’s important to pace your tastings and retain your focus. 

“As a professional judge, we are given a certain amount of information that prepares us for evaluation of a variety of wines,” says Jennifer “JB” Kelly, a sommelier and president of Luxury Wine Partners. “So it becomes an intellectual exercise first and then experiential.”

Kelly, a 25-year industry veteran, began judging competitions about 5 years ago and finds satisfaction in the challenge of identifying wines that deserve increased consumer attention. 

“I’m generally excited for every competition that I participate in,” Kelly continues. “My most important and favorite part of wine judging is being on a panel that comes to a consensus for any particular wine. A consensus among different judges shows a wine is exceptional — at every level, a winner, a true winner!”

Promoting winners

The Los Angeles Times, which is the media sponsor of the competition, will publish notification of the competition and results in a future edition. Additionally, winning producers will be featured in a robust LA Times promotional campaign targeting wine, spirits and food enthusiasts. 

Those who read dining and restaurant coverage and purchase tickets to our tasting events tend to be in their 20s through 50s,” says Jordan Harris, vice president of events for the Los Angeles Times. “There is strong interest among our subscribers for food coverage and dining events, and, because our community is one of the most diverse in the world and our food programs reflect that, this audience is very inclusive.”

In addition to editorial coverage that includes recipes and tips for home cooks, recommendations on where to find the best drinks and dishes throughout the city and unparalleled reporting on LA’s dining scene, the Times supports the local culinary community throughout the year. 

These include a collection of dining guides and weekly newsletters (Cooking, Tasting Notes), social media including Instagram and YouTube, traditional media such as segments on LA Times and Spectrum News 1’s “L.A. Times Today” and KCRW’s “Good Food” and, of course, multiple live events throughout the year.

“Our culinary events help to highlight and expand on our award-winning editorial coverage and celebrate the LA culinary scene, which our food team describes as ‘undeniably the country’s most dynamic and diverse,’” Harris continues. 

A curious food audience is, by extension, a curious beverage audience. By entering the LA Invitational Wine & Spirits Competition, brands have an opportunity to establish themselves and gain the attention of interested consumers and industry representatives.

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To learn more about the Los Angeles Invitational Wine & Spirits Competition, including entry requirements and deadlines, please visit lainvitational.com.

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